How to deal with guilt? Follow these 6 tips

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    A bad feeling that you have when you know that you have done something wrong is guilt. Here’s how to deal with guilt and move on in life.

    Guilt is an emotional response stemming from a belief that one has done something that is not morally correct. For instance, if someone lies to a friend, guilt may arise due to the breach of trust. This emotion can have profound effects on mental well-being, contributing to stress, anxiety or even depression. To alleviate guilt, it’s crucial to acknowledge and take responsibility for your actions, apologising if necessary. Since holding onto guilt can trap you in a vicious circle of negativity, it is important to know how to deal with guilt.

    To find out the best ways to overcome guilt, Health Shots reached out to psychologist Dr Kamna Chhibber.

    Signs that indicate you are feeling guilty

    • Intense sadness
    • Thinking about the same thing all the time
    • Insomnia
    • Muscle tension
    • Crying without any reason
    • Upset stomach
    • Feeling anxious and sad
    • Lack of confidence
    • Stress when interacting with others

    How does guilt affect you?

    Guilt can have various side effects on mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Dr Chhibber says, “Constantly feeling guilty significantly affects a person by making them feel negatively about themselves.” This may lead to heightened stress, anxiety, and maybe depression. Apart from these effects on mental health, emotional, guilt can contribute to feelings of sadness, shame, and low self-esteem. She adds, “Persistent guilt may interfere with one’s ability to experience joy or satisfaction in life.”

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    Stress associated with guilt can cause headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue. A disturbed sleep cycle is also common, as guilt may not let you stay calm and relaxed. Chronic guilt might weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illness.

    The guilt arising from any situation, knowingly or unknowingly, affects your health, your relationships, and your productivity. Therefore, it is important to recognise it and overcome it as soon as possible. Remember, this may take time, but you can overcome it.

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    How to deal with guilt?

    1. Don’t hold yourself responsible

    Guilt has a way of convincing us that we are solely responsible for a situation or outcome. However, it’s crucial to recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and circumstances are often multifaceted. Dr Chhibber says, “Instead of shouldering the entire burden, acknowledge your role without self-condemnation. Understand that learning from mistakes is a natural part of the human experience.” This perspective shift allows for self-compassion and paves the way for constructive growth.

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    Take a break, and stop blaming yourself. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

    2. Accept yourself

    Acceptance is a powerful antidote to guilt. Embrace the reality that you, like everyone else, are a work in progress. Acknowledge imperfections without harsh judgment. Recognising that mistakes don’t define your worth can liberate you from the feeling of guilt. Dr Chhibber explains, “Self-acceptance creates a foundation for personal growth and fosters a positive mindset conducive to overcoming guilt.”

    3. Understand the reasons

    Delving into the root causes of guilt is essential to stop feeling guilt. Try to understand what your intentions were behind your actions and how you can now make things right. And if you find that you were wrong, try to work on yourself and move on.

    Also read: Heal your heart! Try these 7 tips to move on after a breakup

    4. Move towards change

    Guilt should not be there to make you negative. Instead, guilt should be helping you gain a positive change in yourself. Dr Chhibber advises, “Once you understand the reasons behind your guilt, channel that energy into your next step of improvement. Whether it’s apologising, making amends, or altering behaviour, taking proactive measures reinforces personal responsibility and empowers you to break free from the clutches of guilt.”

    sad woman
    It is not impossible to move on from your mistakes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

    5. Talk to positive people

    Sharing your feelings of guilt with your friend or family can help lower your emotional burden. A fresh perspective from those who genuinely care about your well-being can provide valuable insights and help you navigate through guilt. Dr Chhibber says, “Many times, what we are thinking is only our imagination. Whereas the facts are something else. Hence, taking guidance from someone close to us can help us make the right decision.”

    6. Do not hurry!

    Be gentle with yourself, give yourself time to heal, and move on. According to Dr Chhibber, rushing the process may lead to hasty decisions or incomplete self-reflection. So, take enough time and space for this. Don’t rush, everything will work out slowly.

    Follow these tips and make constant efforts to move on!

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